Looking back, moving forwards – Seventh day within the octave of Christmas – John 1:1-18

Looking back, moving forwards – Seventh day within the octave of Christmas – John 1:1-18

We come to the end of a year and listen to what God’s word says to us. This Gospel holds an amazing attraction. It helps us look back to learn and look forward in hope. God’s word is a creative word who gives life to all, in love. Jesus is the Word uttered by the Father, the word of hope and promise. Jesus, is God’s message to us – he is our Good News. We know that God loved the world and sent Jesus among us.  

Each of the Gospels begins with an account of Jesus’ origins. Mark introduces Jesus to us as an adult, telling us that Jesus was “a man from Nazareth” whose advent fulfils the arrival of God’s salvation as foretold by the prophet Isaiah. Matthew and Luke’s narratives begin earlier still, rooting Jesus’ very conception and birth in the prophecies of old and God’s will to deliver humanity. John, however, pushes his account of Jesus, the Word, back to the beginning of time itself. Before anything else had been created, he was.    

Today’s Gospel invites us to experience and savour the drawing power of the mystery of love beyond all telling. A God who is Life, and Light, ‘The Word’ who moves house, not content to remain aloof from us. One theologian wrote, I searched for God in the heavens but found he had fallen to earth, so I must seek him among my friends. God moves his dwelling, his residence, his house and inserts himself fully into our human story of loneliness, pain, frailty and fragility.

To say that “the Word became flesh” in the first Christian century carried a variety of meanings. Platonists believed that the high god was transcendent and aloof from the world. They also believed that the mind was the superior part of human beings and that the mind had to control the flesh. The flesh was weak and leaned toward pleasure to the excess. The Word becoming flesh would have been a ridiculous statement for Platonists: while a god might assume human-likeness, surely no self-respecting god would actually become human.

Stoicism did not believe the high god was aloof. Indeed, the Stoics believed that God and universe were two aspects of the same reality, that is God and the world were inseparable.   For the Stoics to say “the Word became flesh” could simply mean that God was at the centre of human activity.  

For Christians this statement conveyed that the God of the universe cared so much for humanity that through his son he became more like humans so that they might become more like him.  

What does it mean today for Christians to say that the Word has become flesh? I believe that it means that the Christian Church must become more ethical and less theological. One of the major fallacies of the modern Church is that proper doctrine automatically includes proper ethics. Nothing can be further from the truth. The Church needs more Christians who are not aloof but loving, Christians who care for others simply because they need help.   The Church needs members who are more concerned with protecting the faith than protecting local traditions. It needs more Christians who seek to become a blessing for others instead of always looking for a blessing.

I don’t know if one would call this year eventful but It is an eventful year that leaves lasting memories and this year has its share of memories of mercy. We have the fidelity of God that has sustained us in the many challenges of life that this year, dominated by the pandemic, has dished out. We still need light in the darkness and hope in the uncertainty that is around us. God has given us the Eternal Word and the living word of scripture to guide us. We pray to welcome and appreciate those words more fully, asking that our words may be in harmony with them.

In the year that starts tonight, let us grow in the knowledge of God. We need to ask ourselves; what ‘word’ does the Lord desire me to take with me as I enter the New Year? Let us pray that we may receive his fullness, grace upon grace. He took on this mortal flesh for us and lived among us. May this coming year bring us closer to him.

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